Monday, July 21, 2014

Well Said: Approaching Christ While Leaving the Church to One Side

Those people who claim to approach Christ whilst leaving his Church to one side, and even causing her harm, may one day get the same surprise as Saint Paul did when he was on his way to Damascus: I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. And, the Venerable Bede reflects that He does not say 'why are you persecuting my members,but why are you persecuting me?' For He is still affronted in his Body, which is the Church." Paul did not know until that moment that to persecute the Church was to persecute Jesus himself.
Francis Fernandez, In Conversation With Christ, vol. 4
It's kind of interesting that people know well Paul got his comeuppance by persecuting Christ's church, and yet they themselves will go right ahead and do that same thing. People within the Catholic Church do so as well as those outside of it.

Fernandez goes on to point out that Paul spoke about the Church later as the Body of Christ. Bringing up the logical conclusion, he mentions it is not possible to love, follow, or listen to Christ, without loving, following, or listening to the Church, because she is the presence, at once sacramental and mysterious, of Our Lord, who prolongs his saving mission in the world to the very end of time.

Food for thought, isn't it? The saints worked to improve the Church but through obedience and love. How do we go about it when we see something is going astray? Do we treat Christ's body with medicine or with hatred? Do we love it as we should? This opens up myriad topics for reflection.


  1. Paul was persecuting people who followed Jesus Christ and proclaimed him Lord. There is a hymn called We are the Church, the gist of the hymn is that the Church is not a building or institution but collection of people who love and follow Jesus. I think it is a mistake to narrowly define the Church as only The Roman Catholic church because there are many people of many different denominations who love and serve Jesus.

  2. Bob,
    Even by your definition we are still quite divided. BTW I don't read Julie as saying anything here about the Catholic Church alone as the Body of Christ. It's my understanding that all the baptized are within the Body, although we may be separated for lots of other reasons. That is what the Catholic Church teaches; I heard it from a priest last week. Certainly we have lost unity - which Christ prayed for - and I think we all (Christ included) suffer because of it.

  3. Bob, I actually had some of the most rabid Catholics in mind from the right to the left who savage their Mother Church in the name of how they'd like to see things run.

    As far as our separated brethren, sparrow is right, the Church acknowledges that we are all one Body. Jesus himself said "Anyone who is not against us is for us." (Mark 9:40)

    However, since you raised the issue I have been thinking about it. Paul also loved and served God. After his encounter with Christ did he say "Hey, we all love and trust God so its all good." No, he wanted everyone to know and love God the most fully they could. He knew there was more Truth waiting for those who had a partial truth and understanding.

    Before his Passion, Jesus prayed, "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me." Right after that he went out and was arrested. So it was so important to Him that it was on His mind at that crucial moment.

    Doesn't that make a Christian of any stripe take pause? To look at where the separations in beliefs come from by looking at what both sides say about whatever it is that separate them? Isn't that the best way to inform our consciences, to truly judge the Truth to the best of our abilities?

    We all have the right to be wrong. You do. I do. The question we must ask ourselves is are our consciences fully formed and informed. Have we looked only at one side or been content to let things slide because we all love and serve Jesus? I'm not saying this just to the Protestant / Catholic question but also to Catholics who essentially separate themselves from each other.

    If we look for Truth with charity, being brave enough to leave aside our preconceptions, perhaps we can be part of the answer to Christ's prayer and we may indeed be one Body.